Something To Get Steamed Up About!

On display inside the marquee and for many the star of the show will be the original memorial plaque which ‘disappeared’ from the original ticket office at Bridge House-St Johns Crossing several years ago. The plaque was rediscovered in July after it made a fleeting appearance on BBC Look North who were reporting on the recent takeover of the William Lane Foundry in Middlesbrough, the last traditional foundry in the old Ironmasters District of the town. Unfortunately after it was removed the plaque was forcibly folded to aid it’s removal and obvious intention of being melted down but this was thwarted by the police who passed it onto William Lane for safe keeping and possible restoration.

The plaque dates to 1925 and celebrates the centenary of the S&DR.  It was unveiled by the then Duke of York (later King George VI) and carries the LNER Coat of Arms together with those of the towns of Stockton and Darlington. It reads “Here in 1825 the S&DR booked the first passenger, thus marking an epoch in the history of mankind”.  As we now know, this isn’t quite correct, but it’s still a hugely important artefact and deserves better than it’s current condition and status. The estimated cost of repair is in the order of £2,000 but the plaque was not insured by the Bridge House charity and at present funding is still required to repair and re-instate the plaque although a more suitable and safer home such as Preston Hall Museum may be considered.

Photographs and details courtesy of David Thompson.

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10 thoughts on “Something To Get Steamed Up About!

  1. Grateful thanks to all concerned in bringing this matter to such a satisfactory close. Stockton undersells itself and has a very fine history of inventions that have improved all our lives.
    The completed Booking Office now looks at its best and worth a close look at it.
    My Uncle Fred Kidd and Son of Church Row invented the first animal automatic drinking bowl, they were found all over the country mainly in cowsheds. Think how much hard work that saved.
    The old factory stood just after the railway bridge high up on the right hand side going to Portrack. It composed of an engineering workshop full length of the building with a separate brass and metal foundry at the rear. The offices had a Boardroom, Drawing office, company secretary office, Wages Office and Time office. Mr Charlie. Lampton was Works Foreman.
    The firm was wound up in about the 1960’s after a big court case lasting over two years due to “dirty work at the crossroads” by so called agent for a Kidd Patent of massive value.
    J.Norman Kidd.

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  2. A recent visit showed that the plaque is still being looked after by William Lanes Foundry, who also produce replacement castings for historic buildings around Teesside.

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  3. Stockton has never really bothered with its railway heritage – so the state of this plaque doesn’t surprise me. Why didn’t the council conserve it properly years ago? They might as well give this plaque to some organisation who would look after it. How about the National Railway Museum at Shildon?

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  4. It ought to be agreed that this plaque is not worth repairing and it no longer does justice to the important event it commemorates. May I suggest that a white marble plaque of similar size and design ought to be commissioned and erected on land adjoining Bridge Road original booking office.

    * Contrary to popular belief George Stephenson did not initiate the Stockton and Darlington railway, this was Edward Pease who came to the conclusion that there was a great need for a railroad with waggons drawn by horses to carry coal from the collieries of West Durham to the port of Stockton. In 1821 Pease and a group of businessmen formed the Stockton & Darlington Railway company. On 19th April 1821, an Act of Parliament was passed that authorized the company to build a horse railway that would link the collieries in West Durham, Darlington and the River Tees at Stockton. Nicholas Wood, the manager of Killingworth Colliery, and his engine-wright, George Stephenson, met Pease and suggested that he should consider building a locomotive engine railway and dispense with the horses. Edward Pease realised George Stephenson was right and offered him the post of chief engineer of the newly formed Stockton & Darlington company.

    * In Newport, Rhode Island, tourists can still view the Marble House, Bellevue Avenue, Newport. US, belonging to Cornelius Vanderbilt, Americas, greatest railwayman and line builder, Vanderbilt did NOT make his fortune by building railways but by purchasing for 10 cents an acre the land located 10 miles each side of his railway lines and re-selling it to intending farmers.

    * Contrary to popular belief America the Great Western States was not opened up for development by horse drawn wagon train settlers but by rail-Trekkies. Likewise one could argue that the New York Central Railroad, the Union Pacific Line, the Chattanooga Express and the Santa Fe Railway etc, were all conceived in Stockton-on-Tees. This is why this rail plaque is so important. Alongside it should be another plaque dedicated invented to John Walker, a chemist and druggist from Stockton-on-Tees, who invented the very first friction match in 1826.

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  5. When living in Stockton, I must have passed the original ticket office many times on my way to work at Head Wrightsons or music lessons in Middlesbrough, noticing this plaque. I think it is a gem and hope that the damage can be repaired, the plaque renovated, and displayed for the public to see but not pinch.

    For those interested in Latin I think Stockton’s motto, Fortitudo et Spes, is Strength and Hope and Darlington’s, Floreat Industria, is Industry Blooms (or could be blossoms).

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  6. It is a great shame that this plaque has been damaged. What puzzles me is the damage to the frame which appears to have had the decoration ground away and holes drilled, for what purpose I cannot imagine. Compare this photograph to that which I posted last year of a picture of the plaque taken in 2007.
    I hope that the restoration can be done before the bi-centenary of the S&D in 2027.

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    • Reply to David Gibson’s comment – the precise positioning of the drilled holes suggests that some form of metal decoration brass or bronze? Was attached to this plaque with screws from behind. In my opinion.
      Dave.

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    • David
      If you compare my picture of the plaque to yours you will see that the six sets of two holes are for holding the plaque in it’s frame with the pins being hidden behind the ornate ‘scrolls’. Also in my picture taken at the William Lane Foundry the plaque is not sitting squarely in it’s frame and the other holes are also to keep the plaque in it’s frame.
      The Friends of the S&DR also received some good news on the day before the ‘Steam Market’ with Stockton Council offering to contribute half of the costs up to £1000 to have the plaque repaired if the Friends provided the same amount and with the suggestion that the building owners, the Bridge House Charity, meet the cost of the re-installation?

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      • Thanks for the replies, I had not thought of that explanation for the holes. I tend to agree that the plaque may be beyond repair, and a new one produced. With modern technology it should be possible to create an exact copy, but the other suggestion of marble plaques to commemorate other notable inventions in Stockton is also an attractive idea. Excellent news that the Council are willing to provide match funding, if not for repair then hopefully for a replacement.

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  7. Between 1967 and 1971 I worked as a technical officer in the local Railway Assistant Engineer’s office on the far end of Thornaby station. When often walking over Tees Bridge and into Stockton for lunch (frequently the ‘Chinese’ in Yarm Road) I’d always read the important words on this plaque. Around this time, an ageing – and it’s recalled, rather eccentric – BR employee (from where I wonder?) was stationed in this eponymous building as the caretaker of a small museum, made open to the public for a short time. It was very cramped within and the floor sloped visibly. The furniture there might have been original. It was also possible instead to turn right and walk down a cinder path alongside the S&DR route to arrive at Finkle Street near the dock cranes.

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